Senna Leaf Is The Reason Your Detox Tea Is Making You Poop Your Pants
Detox teas touting weight loss and debloating benefits rose in popularity around 2017, but reports of undesirable GI symptoms (read: cramping, constipation, diarrhea) quickly followed.
These terrible side effects are thanks to an ingredient called senna leaf, and despite the poop- and gut-related horror stories reported by many customers, there's still quite a few detox teas featuring senna leaf on the market today—including All Day Slimming Tea Evening Detox Tea, Flat Tummy Tea, and SkinnyMint's 28-Day Ultimate Teatox (do you see a trend with these product names?).
What is senna leaf?
Senna leaf is an herbal ingredient derived from the plant Senna alexandrina. Senna contains compounds called sennosides that irritate intestinal lining, providing a laxative effect that can help relieve constipation.
In other words, detox teas aren't actually solving your detox and digestive issues to help you lose weight; they're clearing your colon.
Why you shouldn't consume senna daily
As a natural laxative, senna has been found to help improve frequency of bowel movements1 and overall quality of life in constipation patients. However, its long-term use isn't as beneficial to natural detoxification pathways as these detox tea companies would like you to believe.
Case in point: Although the FDA has approved senna as an over-the-counter drug to treat constipation, use for a period longer than one or two weeks isn't recommended. The NIH also warns that even just three to five months of consistent use can injure the liver2 (i.e., the body's primary detoxification organ).
Unfortunately, detox teas have also hidden their dosages in "proprietary blends." Translation? Detox tea companies aren't transparent about how much senna leaf each serving of their product contains (or any of their other ingredients, for that matter).
Senna side effects
Over time, drinking detox teas with senna leaf can cause:
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Stomach cramps
- Fluid Loss
- Abdominal pain
- Cardiovascular health issues
- Dependence in order to have a normal bowel movement
- Rectal bleeding
As if that scary list of side effects wasn't enough to turn you away from detox teas for good, senna can also interfere with the estrogen in some contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, making them less effective (yikes!).
What to take instead
If you want to truly support your body's detoxification system, a targeted supplement (like those recommended in mindbodygreen's guide to choosing a liver detox supplement) can provide a daily dose of antioxidants that your detox pathways need to function optimally.
Additionally, there's a list of healthy and detoxifying habits that you can incorporate into your daily routine, including:
- Sweating regularly3 (via physical activity, hot baths, sauna usage, etc.)
- Getting deep and restful sleep4
- Hydrating properly5
- Eating a nutrient-dense diet6 filled with antioxidant-rich plant foods
Senna leaf is a helpful herbal tool—if you're struggling with constipation. If your true goal is to optimize your body's natural detox pathways, ditch the detox tea and try taking an antioxidant-rich supplement instead.
To fully support your elimination organs and their innate detox methods in a natural, safe, and effective way, you can also step up your lifestyle habits with great sleep, movement, nutrition, and hydration.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.